Monday, August 23, 2010

Go --> Forth

It seems like the Philippines was so long ago, but it hasn't even been a month since we've been in Indonesia. I feel like the Phillies & Indo have been two completely different chapters I have been through in my life, & this phase I am in is the most powerful yet. I have taken myself out of the busy life-style that was consuming every part of my being & gave myself the opportunity to take a step back, listen to the silence, & get to know myself again. Not only am I continuously learning what it means to live on a planet (and not just a country), I am also learning what it is I love & what is truly important to me. Typically my summer would have been spent engulfed & hyptomized by loud music, parties, & mind altering experimentation, but this year I chose something different. I decided to see the world, practice yoga, climb volcanoes at 4am instead of party til 4am, meditation, silence, knowledge, God (actually I call it "Father Sky", I believe you can call this living entity of connection & oneness anything you want, but most people know it as God), & most importantly I chose self-exploration.
The major difference between the Philippines & now is that when I began this voyage I felt stuck.. internally... I came equipped with a ton of goals to achieve, so I knew I traveled half way across the Earth for a reason, but I didn't know where to start. So, in all honesty, the majority of the time I was in the Philippines I was solely an observant adventurist. The experiences were wholesome in every way-but it was almost as though I was on vacation & soon enough I would be back to the busy world of unconsciousness. I went about my days wondering when this "huge transformation" was going to take over me & even questioned if I was in the right place for it to happen. I underestimated the validity that all great things happen in good time. Now, looking back, the transformation began with a book (A New Earth) during my last week in the Philippines. I discovered that all these changes that I wanted to happen would only transpire by starting with myself FIRST. Without even knowing it, the door was opened, & all the things I so desperately desired started coming in one by one.

Now, I don't want to undermine the whole "starting with myself" journey. This was actually gruesome & there are many things about my personality & past that require some serious confrontation-this truthfully was no easy battle to initiate, but it was exactly what HAD to happen in order to prove to myself that I can obtain the things that I REALLY want in life.

The longer I have been overseas the more deep, heartfelt, & real it has become. Sometimes I don't even recognize myself (in the best way possible). The other day my yoga teacher identified that "people often associate yoga with self-improvement, but it's not, its actually all about self-exploration." As soon as she said that the light went off in my head & I said to myself (internally) "that's it! This journey I am on is all about figuring out what my mind, body, & soul is capable of." After all I have been through I can see now that all three parts of myself are being tested & exercised (even when I felt stuck).
Before I left the US I titled my journal "Trip of Transformation-mind, body, & soul." The door has been opened & it will consciously never be closed.

I understand how freakin sweet it is to be human, how lucky I am to be in such an amazing situation, I how I will always live up to my last name!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Motorcycle Diaries

The days I like the most are the ones when we hop on the back of a motorcycle & set off for the open road. We leave the tourist trail in our dust & explore the journey of the unknown~this is when we get to see the true culture of the country.
We are given the chance to go off road & witness the beauty that unfolds in the most primitive villages. The other day we were cruising through the mountains of Bali, & these aren’t like any typical mountains, these were rainforest mountains coated by thick, juicy clouds that consistently spit out rain. I didn't quite realize that we were truly deep in the jungle because there were so many villages, it seemed like any other place where people created a way of life surrounded by lush crops & forests. It hit me as I sat sheltered from the pouring rain in a sari-sari twistin & lickin Oreo's when I looked up & spotted a herd of 5-7 monkeys swinging through the trees RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME!! I looked around to find signs for which national park I was in but found none (you have to be in some kind of claimed land to see something so cool-right?). I turned to Matt & said "its not everywhere in the world where you can enjoy an Oreo & watch monkeys in their natural habitat," he agreed. The rain started to calm so we jumped back on our bike & about 154m up the road I saw some locals standing along the street next to two huge monkeys who were as calm as could be; there were no cameras, no awe inspired faces (except mine), the two species were coinciding-both just going about their business...
Typically, when we don’t have a destination or a plan we stumble upon the greatest things. We decided that we both enjoy the motorcycle excursions so much that we ditched our big backpacks at some hostel in Ubud, packed a day bag for the next week, found a brand new motorbike, circled some epic places in Bali we should definitely see, & hit the road leaving the rest up to fate.
We have a couple running experiments on this motorcycle escapade; one-who serves the best Gado-Gado (a typical Indonesian vegetarian mean with peanut sauce that is served throughout, but prepared completely different in every restaurant), two-who is the best masseuse in Bali, & three- which volcano serves the best sunrise.
The other day we discovered that the cops here are corrupt. As we were cruising along a quiet road, checking out the rice terraces, we ran into two cops on the side of the road who obviously pulled us over & screwed with us because of our pale-tourist looking skin. The cop who could speak English threatened us for about 20 minutes about how he was going to confiscate our bike & Matt’s license until we went to court & the bank & blah blah blah… Then had the nerve to say “or I’ll just let you go with a warning if you give my friend some money.” Luckily, Matt is good with his words & talked him out of the whole dilemma while snatching his license out of his hands. We drove off asking each other “did that really just happen???”
Learning Bahasa (Indonesian) has also been fun & advantageous along this journey. WE know all of the basics and then some. We can read the majority of the menu (which is especially helpful in the warungs-small restos) & even say things like “ini enak sekali!” (that was delicious!) to the chef. Matt also makes this learning fun & memorable, for instance, goat = kambing, he says “the goat like to go camping,” it sticks. I only hope that I am as good of a teacher as he can be. 
After a morning of climbing Mt. Batur another active volcano we were pretty exhausted as we set off for the east coast of Bali. The drive ended up being 3-4 hrs, & although it was vibrantly beautiful, we were beat by the time we arrived in Amed. A sigh of relief overwhelmed both of us when we finally spotted all the home-stays & hotels aligning the beach. We stopped in a few places to ask the price & were shocked to hear the $30-70 quotes without negotiation, & it only seemed to get more expensive as we drove. Now, $30-70 US may not seem like a lot to stay in a hotel on the beach of an Indonesian Island (its not, its an amazing price), but we’ve been spending $5-15 tops & splitting that between the two of us, so this was, how do you say~out of our budget (especially after traveling for over two months now). Just as we were about to loose hope & succumb to splurging we rolled upon a calm place with Buddha statues everywhere & the guy in charge shook our hands & introduced himself as “Smiling Buddha,” he told us “our rooms are full, but you can sleep here for free if you want.” We looked to our right & saw the wide open ocean splashing on the beach & 5-7 women in the courtyard doing yoga; on our left was a spacious & open nipa hut with huge comfy pillows for our laying upon-we both shook our heads yes. Smiling Buddha said “Ok, you sleep here, from the bottom of my heart,” & walked away. Matt & I looked at each other & both knew what the other was thinking… Score!
And this was where we met the French; a posse of 4 dudes & 1 girl who have come together over the course of their travels & created a rebel clan from France. Actually, we didn’t meet them here, the day before we climbed Mt. Batur with them at sunrise, somehow they were just as drawn to this place as us, good places have good vibes (aka vibrational frequencies). This was a lively crew & definitely had a pack leader, who was interesting in every sense of the word. After we all came to the conclusion that we were all looking to have a good time, Smiling Buddha made the suggestion that he could hire a band for us (since we were all staying there for free in his nipa hut like a big fat family). So we danced, we sang, we had great conversations, and a little bit of drama after the ring leader had too many to drink, but absolutely had a great night-one of which I will never forget..

“Adventure is a path. Real adventure- self-determined, self-motivated, often risky-forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the Earth & you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness & bottomless cruelty of humankind-and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white.” ~ Anatole France

Friday, August 6, 2010

John Steinbeck said, “People don’t take trips; Trips take people.” How true…

The people here are entirely generous, polite, & helpful when they find us travelers in need of direction & information. They will talk & walk with us for as long as we need without asking for a cent. Maybe it is completely out of their kindness, or maybe even to just practice their English (the ones who speak English here have a one-up in the job market), either way, I cherish these interactions.
The Indonesians love Obama!! Essentially it is because he once lived here in Java, but mostly because of his influence on the States. The Indonesians ask where we are from (it is of top priority to know this before anything else) & as soon as we say "USA" they are full of cheer and gratitude to meet us & yell "Oh YES! OBAMA!!" I'm not so sure they would have been so honored to meet us 1 1/2 year ago before Obama was in presidency.
We were told a very interesting story the other day that was extremely powerful & I will never forget. During one of our "interactions" with an English speaking Indonesian (who was a Batik Artist-incredible wax & dye cloth paintings) he was thrilled to hear we were from America & let us in a little secret. He was also a well-traveled individual taking his art world-wide & knew how people all over the world feel about the USA. He told us that people across the globe seriously anticipated & payed close attention to our last presidential election. The amazing part is that he told us that every person in Indonesia (& in other countries as well) stopped everything they were doing that day & prayed that Obama would win the election. "We stopped working, eating, driving, etc. to sit and send out our magnetic forces to your country. And it Worked!! We are all very excited your country is ready for change too." I was absolutely moved, it literally gave me goosebumps. Not only do many of us Americans understand how desperately we needed a change, but people all over the world stopped everything they were doing to help make it happen. Unbelievable! It is seriously powerful to know that people world-wide jumped for joy when Obama's name shouted victory on that very important day.

So far, our journey in Indo has included many Western tourists (mainly Europeans with a dash of Americans). Right now I am struggling with this mostly because our experiences in the last two months have been very intimate with the locals-they looked at us as a hot commodity who they were curious about, now were just another tourist. And that's the second reason why its hard for me, they make me feel like a tourist-not a traveler. I often find myself asking Matt if we can "go eat elsewhere" just to get away from it all. I've got a bit of the "I'm not here to see Westerners syndrome" & because of that I probably seem either a bit intimidating or just plain & simple unwelcoming, either way I will get over it soon... But I just have to get it off my chest that Europeans are almost as loud & obnoxious as Americans. Which almost makes me believe that the West represents quite an egocentric & unconscious state (-), & the East signifies silence, devotedness, & selflessness (+); without the two dualities this world would not be able to exits as a balanced being. I have to admit though, all of us tourists & travelers have one thing in common; we are all searching for something. Whether it be an adventure, God, art, culture, yoga, a good surf spot, or simply a change; we all left our homes of comfort to see exactly what it is this world has to offer.I am also being a bit over-dramatic about this solely because I've been stuck either on a bemo (van-type transportation) or a huge "tour"-ist bus for the past 2 days with the same white faces. And its all because we signed up for a package deal from Yogyakarta (Java) to Denpassar (Bali).
Traveling Indo is nothing like traveling the teensy-weensy islands of the Philippines-these islands are HUGE!! The longest trek in the Philippines was 5 hours (I thought that was exhausting); now this one was going on 48 hours-which makes Indonesia as a country, as an archipelago -intimidating. But every penny we spent on that package deal & all the time spent with the tourist was all worth it because of what I experienced at the crack of dawn a few days ago.
Bright & early, I mean, dark & early @ 3:30AM we rose from our slumber (& this typically ain't my bag) with intentions to see the sun rise over Mt. Bromo a.k.a. a very capable & active volcano. We layered up & as we headed out the doors I tried to convince myself it was too early for coffee, plus I should experience this on my own, without any help of substance. It was about an hour walk to & up the volcano; it was not the easiest of walks either at the butt crack of dawn. My motivation on the way up was the shear beauty of my surroundings & my motivation on the way back was muesli.
I can't really describe the magic that swept over my soul as I stood on the lip of the crater of lively Mt. Bromo. I'm not sure if it was the visual of looking down in a volcano as it spewed sulfury steam, or the vibrant green volcano standing beside Mt. Bromo, or the clouds that rolled over the surrounding mountains like a waterfall, or the transcendence of witnessing the sun RISE over such a surreal setting, something deep within my soul evolved. On top of the ultimate gratitude that swirled in my heart for such a heavenly place on Earth, I felt a deep longing for a change of living & it all seemed entirely possible. That day I made four invigorating goals for myself.

"Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep & permanent, in the ideas of living." -Miriam Beard